By Safvan Allahverdi
American experts on Wednesday warned of the threat posed by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) in the country.
"I believe that the Gulen movement in the U.S. presents a unique and unusual security threat," said Mark Hall, producer, screenwriter and director of the documentary,, "Killing Ed", which probed the financial practices of FETO-linked charter schools in the U.S.
Speaking at the panel, "July 15 Coup attempt: Two Years Later", organized by the Turkish Heritage Organization (THO), a Washington-based think tank, Hall said FETO threatens the U.S. mainly by bringing in unqualified employees from other countries, especially from Turkey, as well as through money laundering and forgery of documents, deceiving local and federal authorities.
He noted that the terror group has also been financing major public relations firms for ages to convince American society that they are compatible with democratic, moderate American values. But a closer investigation reveals exactly the opposite.
"The Gulen movement has financed over a 19-year period a huge [public relations] movement to provide a story about who they are. But when you look more closely, it is not a group that is democratic or that has the U.S.’s best interests in mind," Hall said.
Emphasizing that FETO's U.S.-based leader, Fetullah Gulen, needs to be extradited to Turkey, he added that the U.S. government should also pay attention to the immigration issues related to FETO-linked charter schools.
"The schools should be removed from receiving tax dollars," he said.
FETO and Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 in Turkey, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
Hall, in a previous panel, said he heard about the attempted coup from television news while he was in the process of filming a documentary, and "it was no surprise" to him to learn that FETO was behind the coup attempt.
Another speaker at the panel, Abraham Wagner, who is a lecturer in national security law at Columbia Law School, said the corruption in taxes and immigration that FETO commits in the U.S. needs to be examined thoroughly.
He also said that FETO is not known in America in detail.
"There is not a great deal of awareness in America among the public or the media about what the Gulen movement is," Wagner said. "It is unfortunate that it hasn’t gotten the media coverage or official law enforcement coverage that it needs."
Mary Addi, who formerly taught at a Gulen movement school in the U.S., also spoke at the panel.
Addi said she first learned that her Turkish husband, who also taught at the school, was part of the movement when she realized he was giving 40 percent of his salary back to the movement.
"I said to my husband, 'Do you get that this is not legal? They are extorting money from you,'” she said, describing it as "illegal and money laundering".
Stating that FETO attempted to force her husband to divorce her because she was investigating its corruption, Addi said she worked with her husband to gather evidence of wrongdoing at the schools and submitted it to the relevant authorities.
However, she said she has been told that the biggest problem the agencies investigating the movement are facing is tracking the money.
Addi also said she has been giving interviews to foreign media outlets while American media outlets turn a blind eye to the issue.
“Where are our government officials? Why is our own country not doing anything about these schools?,” she said.
"There is not a doubt in my mind as to whether they are insidious, dangerous and terrorists,” she added.